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A bottle of Purell

Purell is an instant hand sanitizer made of ethyl alcohol which claims to kill "99.99%" of most common germs that may cause illness in as little as 15 seconds. Its active ingredient is ethanol (63% w/w). It is used by wetting one's hands thoroughly with the product, then briskly rubbing one's hands together until dry. The brand is owned by Gojo Industries. Purell was introduced to the market in 1996. PURELL Green Certified Instant Hand Sanitzer is the first hand sanitizer to meet EcoLogo CCD-170 standards.[1]

Ownership and distribution[edit]

Pfizer acquired the exclusive rights to distribute Purell in the consumer market from GOJO Industries in 2004,[2] and on June 26, 2006, Johnson & Johnson announced its acquisition of the Pfizer Consumer Healthcare division, which includes the Purell brand.[3] In 2010, GOJO bought the brand back from Johnson & Johnson.[4]

Health risks[edit]

Purell purposely adds an unpleasant bitter taste to its product to make it undesirable to drink and to discourage ingestion. Media reports suggest that by filtering the alcohol from the hand sanitizer, the bitter taste disappears, however this is incorrect. Filtering the alcohol does not remove the bitter taste of the hand sanitizer. In the 24 years Purell has been in business, the accidental or intentional ingestion of its products has been rare.[5] The Chicago Tribune reported that children have become inebriated by ingesting Purell. One child's ingestion of the hand sanitizer caused her blood alcohol level to reach 0.218%; Purell contains 63% ethyl alcohol, while other hand sanitizers contain isopropanol which would likely have been fatal in the same dose.[6] The product packaging recommends that the product be "kept out of the reach of children".

The product is flammable which is mentioned in the product label. Besides ethyl alcohol it contains water, isopropyl alcohol, glycerin, carbomer, fragrance, aminomethyl propanol, propylene glycol, isopropyl myristate, and tocopheryl acetate.

Researchers from Emory University presented findings to the American Society for Microbiology Meeting that showed percentages of viruses removed by water, hand soap, and hand sanitizer. The water removed 96 percent; the hand soap removed 88 percent; and the hand sanitizer removed 46 percent.[7]


Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been recommended by top health organizations which include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.[5]


It has been reported and published by the National Academy of Sciences that there is a link between the exposure to triclosan and impairments of muscle functions in animals. Media reports have inaccurately claimed that Purell hand sanitizer contains triclosan. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits triclosan to be used in products that are left on the surface of the skin. Purell hand sanitser does not contain triclosan.[6]


  1. ^ "A healthy decision for people, places and the environment". 
  2. ^ "Pfizer to Acquire PURELL(R) from GOJO; Alliance with GOJO and QualPak will Drive Global Expansion of Brand" (Press release). Pfizer. October 4, 2004. Archived from the original on March 4, 2006. 
  3. ^ Garvin, Jennifer (June 26, 2006). "Johnson & Johnson acquires Pfizer Consumer Healthcare". American Dental Association. Archived from the original on June 10, 2007. 
  4. ^ Byard, Katie (2010-10-30). "Purell brand handed back to Akron's GOJO". Akron Beacon Journal. Retrieved 2010-10-30. GOJO – the Akron soap maker – purchased the Purell hand-sanitizer brand from Johnson & Johnson Consumer Cos. Inc. Financial terms were not disclosed. 
  5. ^ a b "Purell Corporate Statement: Discouraging Misuse by Ingestion". Purell. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Purell Corporate Statement: Purell Products Do Not Contain Triclosan". Purell. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  7. ^ Schaffhausen, Joanna (May 23, 2006). "STAT Medical News: Hand Sanitizer Is No Substitute for Water - ABC News". 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]